Friday, November 14, 2014

"All anyone needs is a little help, a little hope and people who believe in them, and who send them birthday greetings when they are 70.” — Me

Today was a bit surprising, at least to me.  Karen and John had managed to get lots and lots of actual birthday cards for me from friends, family, fellow bishops, congregations I had pastored decades ago, and even a few actual gifts.  This is unlike any birthday since I have been here.  I cried a lot as I read the messages so many had written.  I got a tee shirt from our South Carolina friends that said, guess what, “South Carolina” on it.  I got a combination fan and desk light from my friend Pete O’Neal in Arusha.  Mostly, I was awash in memories of times past and friends I will probably never see again.  Some of the messages really wrenched at my heart because I had no idea that I had had that effect on the lives of both individuals and families.  The picture at the right shows most of the cards, but more importantly it is what they represent, the time to write them, to get them here, and to remind me of how I have touched others and they have touched me.  One card was signed by every member of the first church I pastored as a full-time pastor.  I have now reached the Biblical equivalent of a full life as the Bible says three-score and ten (70), so the next 364 days will be very precious.  Anything past that is just God making me stay here and work until He thinks I deserve to rest.  If I have to make up for all the bad I did in my younger days, I will have to live and work until I am 150 years old.  Karen and John took me to lunch at the Serengeti Stop Over just outside the Ndabaka Gate to the Serengeti National Park.  We drove past herds of wildebeests and zebras as well as troops of baboons.  It is a very restful and quiet place where we are surrounded by the beauty of the Serengeti plains, and we love it.  If you have visited us here, you have probably been there as we take almost everyone there.  They knew what John and I wanted without even asking, we’ve been there that often.  After that, Shaban drove us to see the house he is building in Bunda.  He is still a year or two away from completion, but the concrete block walls are up and the lintel is tying them together, so they will survive the worst the rainy season can deliver.  I never thought I would live this long and certainly wouldn’t have done so much damage to my body motorcycle racing, rock climbing, winter mountain climbing, and doing chemical damage as well during my non-Christian years.  Still, I am so grateful that I lived long enough to truly know Christ and to get to serve here as I was called to do.  Our ten years here have been the happiest of my life.  I could have done without all the surgeries and malaria episodes, but God was not very specific about what I would have to endure to serve His children here, so I don’t complain.  It has made me stronger and more appreciative of the gifts I have been given.  Every time I think I have about done all that I can do, God gives me a new opportunity to expand His kingdom.  We just had a group here dubbing the “Jesus” film into a local language and we will get that film in Swahili and three other local languages for us to use for evangelism as a result.  I got an email just today about another group that wants to expand the biosand water filter project, so no rest for the weary, but back to work.  In a couple of weeks, I will lay hands on three devout men and consecrate them as new bishops.  God’s work is never done, it seems.  Thank you to everyone who sent cards, emails, or posted messages on Facebook or Google+.  I love you all, and you will never know who important that was for me.  I am humbled—and still at work.
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